Batman: Arkham City Review: Stark Raving Fantastic
Rocksteady Studio’s 2009 release, Batman: Arkham Asylum, was one of the few games to break the trend of poor virtual representations of licensed super hero characters. Perhaps the most integral factor in their success was that they made you feel like you really were capable of beating the snot out of two dozen thugs and henchmen all at once using a vast array of martial arts and street fighting techniques. They made it look even nicer than it felt, too.
Well, the big, bad, bat is back in one sequel that is surely superior to the original. Batman: Arkham City brings back all of the things that made its predecessor a critical and commercial success, improves on virtually all of them, and adds in some new features that help create an altogether stunning, enjoyable and rewarding experience.
It isn’t just the combat, as fantastically simple but deceptively diverse as it is, that makes this a terrific game. Arkham City is big. Without getting into the grim and murky details, Gotham City’s most infamous prison has been moved…right into the middle of Gotham City, that is. A big chunk of the city has been fenced off and the prison is literally the city itself. The buildings, the streets, the alleys, and the rooftops are all part of the new Arkham, and they’re all yours to explore (most of them, anyway). In fact, the map in Arkham City is about five times the size of the map in the first game. If you weren’t satisfied with the amount of grapple hooking that you could do in Arkham Asylum, you have little to worry about here. There are plenty of places to go and see.
Luckily, the guys at Rocksteady don’t skimp on the visuals. While the game does tend to feel monochromatic at times (recalling Fallout), all of these places are beautifully detailed and come alive. What the developers have done, interestingly enough, seems like an attempt to combine many different visual representations of Batman into one. At various points during your playthrough, while observing different characters or locales, you’ll be reminded of the Tim Burton Batman movies, while other moments will cause you to fondly reminisce about Batman: The Animated Series. Other details still will instantly take you back to some of your favorite comic book stories.
Speaking of stories, Arkham City offers a pretty engaging one. It isn’t without its hiccups, but it does a pretty good job of bringing in virtually all of your favorite Batman villains and supporting cast. It’s linear, but not so linear that you can’t take a break whenever you want and simply explore (not to mention beat up on random bad guys scattered throughout Arkham City.
Of course, there is also the bonus of Catwoman. If you register the code included with the game online, you get several bonus missions that pop up throughout the story where you get to play as Catwoman, who offers you the chance to beat people up with a completely different set of moves and weapons (where Selina Kyle is concerned, a whip is most definitely a weapon). There are also the challenge maps, where you can use either character and simply face wave after wave of oncoming baddies that are just begging for you to take all of your pent up aggression out on. Rocksteady has already confirmed that downloadable content allowing you to play these challenges as Bat-sidekicks Robin and Nightwing is scheduled to be released in the coming months.
You don’t have to like, love or even know anything about Batman or his hefty mythos to enjoy Batman: Arkham City. It is a great game all on its own, and every gamer should give it a shot. If you do consider yourself a fan of the World’s Greatest Detective, though, this is a game that you simply can’t miss.
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